The single most important issue that drove the Los Angeles mayoral election was union spending on behalf of Wendy Greuel, especially money from the public union within the Department of Water and Power. In a heavily Democratic, labor-oriented city, labor’s candidate lost. What does that portend for the long-term reforms on pension costs, tax reform, re-thinking how government services are delivered and other labor related issues?

It’s true that Greuel had solid support from the business community as well. In fact, she seemed to have many advantages going into the race. She claimed she was the candidate that could bring business and labor together for the betterment of the city. She was more closely identified with the voter rich San Fernando Valley. Some polls indicated that her plea to become the first female mayor of the city struck a chord with voters.

Yet, the major difference between Greuel and the winning candidate, city councilman Eric Garcetti, was Greuel’s financial support from public unions, which Garcetti turned into his most effective jab that scored with the voters.

Let’s not be naïve to think that the unions will now take a seat in the back of the room. Garcetti did have some union support and he has been friendly to unions in the past. The unions will lick their wounds and then get back into the game making amends with the winner.

But, Garcetti also has an opportunity with his victory to set a new course for the city. He won without any of the usual interests in his corner. He has an independence right now that could help him shape the city government for the 21st century.